Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Infamous Mulch Volcano

If you value trees, don’t create the infamous mulch volcanoes 
Jill Odom | April 28, 2017
example of mulch volcanoes in landscaping
Typical mulch volcanoes have been formed high around the base and trunk of these trees. This thick layer of mulch can cause several bad things to happen, including bark decay and root circling.
Photo: MSU Extension Service/Gary Bachman
On Arbor Day, we like to show trees some serious love and one of the greatest favors you could do for these leafy giants is stop the practice of mulch volcanoes.
In recent years, these mounds of mulch have become as prevalent as the bubonic plague in 14th century Europe. Why individuals continue to believe that eight to 12 inches of mulch piled around a tree trunk is a good idea remains unclear, but the fact of the matter is they’ve sentenced the plant to a slow death.
“These issues have been on-going, but in recent years people have started to mound mulch up around the base of the trees – the ‘mulch volcano,’” said Martha Smith, a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator. “New problems have emerged because of this practice. Tree bark is meant to protect the trunk. It works best in the air and light. If you pile mulch onto the bark, it is now exposed to dark and moisture. Bark will begin to rot, and rotted bark cannot protect the tree from insects and diseases. In fact, diseases grow better in this type of environment.”
Mulch is by no means a bad idea. It has many beneficial qualities, but like everything else in life, it should be used in moderation.
When applied correctly it protects the tree from lawn mower or string trimmer damage, while keeping the soil moist and stabilizing the temperature in summer and winter. Organic mulches also eventually decompose and improve the soil structure.
proper vs improper mulching landscape
The proper mulching technique should go wide, not deep.
One of the major purposes of mulch is to prevent weed growth, so the copious amounts piled around the trees may be some overeager company’s idea of stopping weeds for good.
Mulch volcanoes can result in a number of side effects including an almost compost pile, where the material becomes hot enough to kill the inner bark of young trees or prevent the natural hardening off period where trees prepare for winter.
These mountainous monstrosities can also promote the growth of secondary roots in the mulch rather than the surrounding soil. The roots will circle around the tree, similar to how a container plant roots would, and eventually choke off the tree’s main roots.
In periods of heavy rainfall, the tree can drown or be even more likely to rot thanks to the sponge-like nature of mulch. At other times, heavy layers of mulch can be colonized by water-repelling fungi, which will actually turn the pile into a hydrophobic area, leaving the tree in drought conditions despite receiving water.
The proper way to mulch around a tree appears more like a doughnut. The depth of the ring should be two to four inches max. For soils that are poorly drained, like clay, only use two inches of mulch.
Once the mulch is applied, pull the mulch away from the tree trunk by five to six inches. You should be able to see the tree trunk and the flare of the tree. The diameter of the mulch should extend to the drip line of the canopy.
An important factor to keep in mind is that while mulch is aesthetically pleasing, the attractive color tends to fade but this doesn’t mean you should top off the organic matter with a couple inches of fresh material. Measure the mulch levels before deciding to add more or you can end up smothering the tree despite your best intentions.
“Those that decompose faster must be replenished more often,” Smith said. “Here lies the problem, some mulches, such as cypress mulch, remain intact for years but they turn a grey-tan color. People prefer the ‘fresh’ look of new mulch and top dress annually, not considering the existing mulch depth.”
Educate clients and fellow landscaping companies about this ill-informed practice and perhaps eventually these mulch volcanoes will go extinct.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

April Newsletter

Seasonal Floral Displays

Planning your floral display with annuals is a good landscape investment because they’re so versatile, colorful, produce quick results and are relatively inexpensive. These dependable single-season flowers hit the ground running and provide a spectacular and easy show all season long. The choices in size, color and growth habit are vast. Some work well as edging plants. Others are best used in planters or window boxes. The majority are useful as bedding plants for mass effects. Because annuals live only one season, and they have no permanent roots from which to grow the next year, they perpetuate their kind through heavy seed production. To produce lots of seeds, they must produce many flowers. If those flowers are cut before the seeds can form, the plant tries again and again in an effort to make up the loss. The more you cut an annual, the more it blooms - it’s like having your cake and eating it too!
Some popular annuals that you may want to consider for your landscape include impatiens, zinnia, marigold, petunia, nasturtium, alyssum, aster, morning glory, portulaca, snapdragon and sweet pea. With the right planning, good soil, plenty of water and room to flourish, an annual flower display on your property will be a sight to behold.


Colorful blooms from bulbs are always a sight for sore eyes after a cold, gray winter. Spring-flowering bulbs of all kinds are a major contributor to year-round color in any landscape. Crocus, daffodil, tulip and hyacinth are all great choices.
Feel free to give us a call to learn more about floral displays. We're here to help!

Controlling Crabgrass

Lurking just below the surface of your lawn is an invisible menace that is just waiting for the right time to make its presence known. While we don't usually think of crabgrass as a comic book caliber super villain, it can nevertheless wreak havoc on your lawn.
Crabgrass is incredibly hearty and actually thrives in conditions where turfgrass struggles. Millions of crabgrass seeds can lay dormant for years, waiting to emerge until conditions are favorable. Since crabgrass prefers hot, dry weather, it has the upper hand against your turf during the dog days of summer.
By the time you see crabgrass, the large-scale invasion is already underway. The best preventative measure you can take is a pre-emergent treatment early in the year. A well-timed herbicide application can stop most crabgrass before it has a chance to take hold. During the growing season, the best way to keep crabgrass subdued is to provide your lawn with enough food and water to make it a viable competitor. Crabgrass is a formidable adversary, but it is not invincible.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Smoky Mountain Wildflowers in April


rue anemone




foam flower





frasers sedge grass

maidenhair fern

bishops cap

crested dwarf iris

water lettuce

showy orchis



Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March Newsletter

Weed Management in Lawns


Balancing the goal of a beautiful, thick lawn with that of taking responsible care of our environment has become an essential part of professional care. When it comes to weed management, there are effective ways to greatly reduce herbicide use, while delivering very satisfactory results.


Some change in weed control expectations is necessary to an environmentally sound management program. The most effective way to maintain results, while reducing weed control applications, is to inspect and treat when and where weeds are actually a problem in the lawn.
Because weeds can sprout almost all season long, there may be a few weeds present in a lawn at any given time. The goal is to manage weeds and prevent them from becoming a serious problem – not to guarantee there will never be a weed present in the lawn. The need to accept the presence of a few weeds in an otherwise very attractive lawn is basic to the weed management approach.


When your lawn is properly fed, watered, mowed and aerated, weed control materials become less and less necessary. Spot treatments for weeds are much better for your lawn and the environment. We’re dedicated to working with you to keep your world green and healthy.

Dealing with Deer

Deer are beautiful creatures. A family of deer prancing across your yard is an event worthy of gathering the kids for an encounter with nature. While there may be a sense of wonder attached to the fact that such large animals live so close to humans – this situation does not bode well for your landscaping. A century of suburbanization has rid deer of most natural predators causing their populations to soar. Suburbanization has also provided deer with a convenient food source – pretty much anything you are trying to grow in your yard!
Limiting plant loss from deer is a challenging proposition. Once upon a time, bags of human hair hung from trees drove them off. This was in a bygone era when deer feared humans. These days, fragrant soaps hung in mesh bags can help ward off the deer. Commercial repellants also exist, but be sure to research which one is best for you. Some repellants can damage food plants, and most will need to be re-applied after heavy watering or heavy rain.
Some plants such as black-eyed Susans, daffodils, and lavender are unattractive to deer and can be planted throughout your yard. Unfortunately, the most effective way to secure your plants against deer damage is a physical boundary of some kind. Netting or chicken wire around (and on top of) your garden plants will often do the trick. Fences around your yard will also help (although deer are VERY good jumpers). These barriers may be unsightly, but often they are the only solution to a serious deer problem. The best way to gauge your situation is to try several solutions to see what will work. Not all deer are repelled by the same things, and some populations are more tame than others. Trial and error is your best bet in keeping your plants from becoming a deer buffet.